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$800,000 Recovery – Negligent Installation of Electric Range Cord

Case Synopsis:

The plaintiff, a 38-year-old housekeeper, claimed that she was cleaning the apartment at an assisted elderly care facility when she received a shock from the electric range. The defendants included the electrical subcontractor and the construction company, which retained the subcontractor to connect the electric power supply cords to the appliances installed in the apartments. The plaintiff claimed that the power cord to the electric range was negligently installed and was not properly grounded, causing the electrical shock to the plaintiff. The defense denied that there was any defect in the installation of power cord to the electric range at issue.

The plaintiff was employed by the assisted elderly care facility and part of her job responsibilities required her to houseclean apartments of several of the residents.

On June 11, 1998, the plaintiff was in the kitchen of one of the apartments wiping down a Formica™ countertop with a damp rag in her hand when she claimed to have experienced an electrical shock to her right hand. The evidence revealed that maintenance workers subsequently pulled the electric range away from the wall and examined the power supply cord connection. The plaintiff contended that the workers discovered the power-supply cord had been wired incorrectly to the range.

The apartment unit where the incident occurred had been recently completed as part of an expansion project about a year earlier. The defendant electrical subcontractor was hired by the defendant construction company to perform the electrical work and was paid additional money to connect the electric power supply cords to many appliances eventually installed in the new apartments.

The plaintiff’s electrical expert contended that the defendant electrical subcontractor was negligent in the manner in which it connected the power supply cord to the electric range by failing to properly ground the appliance to neutral. The plaintiff claimed that the lack of proper grounding violated the National Electric Code and Project Specifications issued for this construction project. The plaintiff alleged that her electric shock resulted when she completed the circuit by leaning up against the electrical range while reaching with her other hand to wipe down the counter-top, which contained a metal molding strip.

The plaintiff’s medical experts reported that the plaintiff suffered hyperemia (increased blood flow) of her right forearm as a result of the shock, a variant of reflex sympathetic dystrophy. The plaintiff also claimed that she developed photophobia (light sensitivity) in her right eye stemming from the incident. Her medical expenses were $21,000 and she claimed loss wages and loss of earning capacity in the amount of $162,824.

The defendants denied any liability and claimed that the electric range had been installed in the apartment for more than one year prior to the plaintiff’s alleged incident without prior complaints from residents or past housekeepers. The defendant electrical subcontractor further contended that even assuming the power supply cord was wired incorrectly; the electric range would have caused the circuit breaker to trip once the electric appliance was turned on. The defense additionally stressed that the plaintiff was able to return to work the same day of the incident and continued to work without medical restrictions for several months before she quit, pursuing another job.

The defense further disputed that the plaintiff suffered from an RSD variant, arguing that a number of diagnostic tests were all negative and that her own treating physicians failed to consider this diagnosis. The defense related the plaintiff’s alleged injuries to emotional problems unrelated to the accident including marital difficulties, a history of depression and existing stress and anxiety.

Outcome:

The case was settled prior to trial for a total of $800,000. The case was handled by Richard M. Jurewicz, Esquire of Galfand Berger. For more information on this case, please contact him at  rjurewicz@galfandberger.com.